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Hard-line conservativism often confuses me. At once they are for less government and for a larger military presence. Being against a standing military but recognizing the importance of protecting our nation, I find myself often conflicted on this very point.
When the Wikileaks scandal broke, conservatives and pro-government types immediately took the position that the military and our diplomats need to protect their secrets. That secrets kept from the public were sacrosanct.
My libertarian instincts rebelled. I firmly believe that nothing should be said in secret that would not be said in public. Honesty is always the best policy, to recite a kindergarten maxim.
That said, Bradley Manning swore an oath to protect the secrets he was charged with keeping and he violated it, albeit for what he believed were noble reasons. So should he be held accountable for his actions? Yes. But is he a hero? That's the question being pondered by Nobel Laureats. From RT.com:
In the letter from Tutu, Maguireand Esquivel, the laureates say Manning needs to be honored if he has done as accused, not made America’s whipping boy for blowing the whistle. Earlier this year, Manning was nominated himself for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize by the Movement of the Icelandic Parliament, though the award was ultimately presented to the European Union.
“Private Manning said in chat logs that he hoped the releases would bring ‘discussion, debates and reforms’ and condemned the ways the ‘first world exploits the third,’” the laureates write. “Much of the world regards him as a hero for these efforts toward peace and transparency, and he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as a result. However, much as when high-ranking officials in the United States and Britain misled the public in 2003 by saying there was an imminent need to invade Iraq to stop it from using weapons of mass destruction, the world’s most powerful elites have again insulted international opinion and the intelligence of many citizens by withholding facts regarding Manning and WikiLeaks.”
“The military prosecution has not presented evidence that Private Manning injured anyone by releasing secret documents, and it has asserted in court that the charge of ‘aiding the enemy through indirect means’ does not require it to do so. Nor has the prosecution denied that his motivations were conscientious; it has simply argued they are irrelevant. In ignoring this context and recommending a much more severe punishment for Bradley Manning than is given to US soldiers guilty of murdering civilians, military leadership is sending a chilling warning to other soldiers who might feel compelled by conscience to reveal misdeeds. It is our belief that leaders who use fear to govern, rather than sharing wisdom born from facts, cannot be just.”
Manning was one of just six persons charged by the Obama administration under the antiquated, World War One-era Espionage Act of 1917, until last week when Navy linguist James Hitselberger became number seven in the president’s perpetually growing list of persons targeted for allegedly airing state secrets.
The Patriot Act was a massive overreach by the federal government, passed and supported in the name of safety. The Obama administration, by failing to repeal it (as promised) and continuing to jail people for bringing sunshine into a government that claims it needs security because we're at war (without a formal declaration to that end) is unacceptable.
Manning shouldn't be heralded as a hero but he should not be the scapegoat for the failings of the US Government.